Monday, 16 July 2012

British Birds: A pocket guide App - Review

Talk about London buses! After recently reviewing a birdwatching related app, I received a request from iSpiny the creators behind several bird based apps, asking if I would take a look at their latest development; British Birds: A pocket guide - well, I couldn't refuse such a kind request and I was soon downloading the app onto my iPhone eager to see what this latest creation had to offer!

The opening menu which greets you is a simple straightforward format; a search window, Browse Names, Browse Images and Bird Finder  - all very nicely colour coded with a pastel palette, a theme running throughout the guide.

Opening menu - where do you want to go?

After spending a few minutes finding my way around the app, my overriding first impression was that this was less about recording your bird sightings and much more about identification (I suppose the big clue may have been in the title of the app!) and as I browsed the images it felt like I was flicking through the pages of a book, this was the closest app I have come across which could possibly stop me reaching for a book. Working through the names section - nicely grouped in families and taxonomic order I might add, it wasn't long before I was looking up and reading about one of the 189 species of birds available.

For anybody relatively new to birdwatching, the Bird Finder page is a must if you have seen a bird which you don't recognise or can't quite place. Fill in each section as best you can and the Matching Birds number reduces until it either matches a bird to your description or gives you a couple of possibilities based on the information given - I tested this function on several occasions with the Matching Birds icon selecting the bird I had in mind each time - Genius!

What was that bird?

Having selected the group of birds I was interested in (Waders, Gulls and Terns) I randomly selected Grey Plover to be my guinea pig, tapping on the details icon under a very smart photographic image, I was genuinely amazed at the amount of information there was available. A full and detailed description, status, habitat, diet, lifespan, nesting and further facts - it was like I had clicked onto Wickipedia.. and then I noticed on the toolbar a link to the the actual Wickipedia site, which if you needed it, gave you even more facts and figures than you can shake a stick at!

The key indicator page

Further along the tool bar is the bird song and call icons and it's a real bonus that you are given the option to choose between the two. The photographic images of Grey Plover were excellent with three images to choose from in varying plumages, one of which was a bird in flight showing the ID clinching black armpits. A notes section allows you to record your sighting and add any comments - with the ability to post your sighting directly onto Twitter or Facebook (if you have an account) with the tap of a button. I tested the Twitter feature and instantly sent a tweet to my followers saying that I had just seen a Hobby - luckily I didn't test this feature on Ptarmigan! Another clever feature on the toolbar is the key symbol which shows a photo of the bird and the basic key indicators to aid identification, though this feature is not yet available on all 189 birds on the app. And lastly full colour distribution maps - clearly the team at iSpiny have done their homework. I could give you numerous other examples on the detail of the other birds covered in the app, but there is really no need, as every bird has the same full and detailed coverage.

Note making and posting your sightings on Twitter of Facebook

Conclusion: This app is difficult to fault, it has been well researched and developed by people who have a full understanding about birds and the requirements of birdwatchers. If you are a Smart phone owner and you are looking to download an app, for the cost of a bag of crisps (69p) you could own a library of great bird images and facts at the touch of a button - my mum at the age of 62 recently purchased an iPad (bless her cotton socks) and I for one will be recommending this app to her. Remember this app is only the pocket guide version, so for anybody who is slightly more knowledgeable of birds than my mum, iSpiny have a big grown up version called BirdGuide with a whopping 293 British birds species to enjoy with full record keeping and exporting (Excel) capabilities.

Overview: This is an entry level birdwatching app at its best, it might be titled a pocket guide but make sure you have large pockets as it's packed full great photographs and information - which should appeal not just to the everyday birder but ultimately to the non-birder, possibly making everybody's mum an expert!

The Cowboy Birder rating of 4.5 out of 5 Chili's.

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